A Probe Into the Demographic Structure of Nineteenth Century Red River
To the casual observer in 1830 Red River appeared a picturesque rural backwater dotted with church steeples and numerous windmills. The impression would not have been inaccurate. By 1830 the settlement had recovered from the violent struggle between the British and Canadian fur companies and the accompanying desolation, barbarity, and destitution. But the golden decade of the half sedentary, half nomadic life (built around the extended family and the neighborhood) that had become Red River by 1830 lasted only a few years. By 1840 the settlement was faced with a crisis of the land that caused the breakdown and disintegration of the extended family and consequently Red River. Until the rush of Ontarians in the later nineteenth century killed the Red River dream forever, the settlement writhed in a confused agony seeking to perpetuate its myth of that impossible half nomadic, half sedentary existence. The 1849 free trade crisis, the unrest of the 1850s, and the Riel affair were all products of this breakdown. This is not to deny that they were a result as well of the Company's attempt to fossilize its monopoly, and Ontario's effort to extend its empire westward.